Lately, it seems all the rage to diss fitness goals, of all things.
“Don’t set goals – you’ll feel like a failure when you don’t reach them!”
“Don’t set goals – they’ll kill your motivation!”
One article even argued that long-term goals cause you to “define your limitations.” So, for example, if you set a goal to run a sub-3:30 marathon and end up doing better, you’ve “sold yourself short.” If you do worse than that, you’re disappointed. Bam?
In a Periscope broadcast I happened upon, a well-known coach explained that we should set “intentions,” not goals, because not reaching a goal is bad for your self-esteem.
Wait, what? Are we really just wimps? I don’t think so.
These statements are confounding. It’s when I don’t set long- and short-term goals that I feel indecisive, disorganized, and overwhelmed. Note that did not reach a single goal I set last year, yet I don’t feel like a failure at all. Life (or in my case, a prophylactic double mastectomy) happens. I’m chomping at the bit like a crazy-ass wildhorse to reach my fitness goals for this year (here’s a few strength-training goals to hone in on).
I’ve also used goal-setting with my clients for years, and yet we never assume goals will be reached in a neat, linear fashion. And when these badass women do reach their goals, their confidence skyrockets.
I happen to think the New Year is the perfect time to set short- and long-term goals, so I’m sharing my secrets with you right here.
Short-Term, Simple, and Successful
There are two good reasons for setting short-term goals (achieved within a day or week). We call these micro-goals in my coaching programs.
1. You need to change habits to reach your long-term fitness goals.
Habit changes ain’t easy, especially when all you can see is that distant, final goal. It’s also not easy to sustain big, sudden lifestyle changes (hence the failure of most resolutions). Even studies show that smaller behavioral weight-loss changes are more successful and easier to sustain than trying to make major lifestyle changes all at once. 
Let’s say you want to go from 23% body fat to 18% within 12 weeks. To make this happen, you need to make specific changes to your diet, track your food, and increase aerobic exercise. Do you have the discipline and know-how to do this without setting daily or weekly goals? That’s quite a leap. But micro-goals are tiny steps that help you feel successful on a regular basis and add up to lifestyle changes. For example, you will do 30 minutes of cardio on Tuesday and Saturday, cut alcohol down to two drinks per week, and log your food for two weeks.
2. You feel overwhelmed or demotivated when you try to set long-term goals.
Motivation is rather complex. Global statements that not reaching goals inhibit motivation for everyone are simply untrue. One study showed that a when participants were unmotivated to exercise, they actually saw the finish line as farther away. 
Another study showed that participants who committed to a manageable goal they could accomplish in the near future – and who believed that they were capable of meeting that goal – actually saw exercise as easier .
Your Long-Term Vision Is Your Motivation
Bigger, long-term goals help you keep your eyes on the prize – they’re your all-important why that will help keep you motivated and focused. Why am I doing cardio on Tuesdays? Because I want to lose 5% body fat, fit into my old jeans, and have a body that screams damn, girl!
If life gets in the way, we just pick up where we left off keep goin’. You can always change the end date or even the goal if you want. Be as realistic as you can and don’t be judgy if the date didn’t happen to be accurate. In fact, consider your “end date” an estimate only, but do try to aim for it with all you’ve got.
Rachel Cosgrove, best-selling author, spokesperson, and co-owner of a successful gym with her husband Alwyn, is a strong believer in the power of goals. Speaking at an IDEA World Conference she said,
You’ve got to pick your head up every once in awhile and look for the signs, look for the door, and figure out, ‘where do I want to go?'”
So even though we have to do the daily work of working towards our goals, we also need to “pick our head up” to find our way there.
Cosgrove also recommends writing your goals down and then taking immediate action. You’ve got to train your brain to behave and think differently. Yes, it takes effort, but how badly do you want it?
So this year I have my big and small goals posted where I can see them every day (unassisted pull ups, staying injury-free, stronger pecs, and improved cardiovascular health). I’ve set up small steps for each week through the next few months and already started. I really do recommend that you do this as well – that immediate action works!
So take the time to set yours up today. Visualize, plan, and GO!
 Shana Cole et al., “Visual perception and regulatory conflict: motivation and physiology influence distance perception,” Journal of Experimental Psychology, February 2013
 Chris Weller, During Exercise, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: How Focus Helps Shorten Perceived Workout Time, Medical Daily, October 1, 2014
 Lutes, LD et al, Small changes in nutrition and physical activity promote weight loss and maintenance, Ann Behav Med. 2008 Jun;35(3):351-7. doi: 10.1007/s12160-008-9033-z. Epub 2008 Jun 21.
 Cosgrove, Rachel, How to Be the CEO of Your Career in the Fitness Industry, IDEA Video Library
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.